7 Tips for Stopping a Migraine in Its Tracks

Migraine headaches always seem to arrive at the most inopportune of times. The demands of the day often require a sufferer to “push through” while doing whatever possible to manage the agony. Migraine pain nearly always cuts into efficiency and effectively ruins your mood for the day.

Although there’s no wonder pill for eliminating migraine pain altogether, there are some proven methods for keeping it to a minimum. Next time you feel a migraine coming on, try some of the tips listed below. You might also consider keeping a migraine journal, noting which steps you took that you found most effective.

1. Take Something for the Edge

The most effective way to stop a migraine in its tracks is answering the onset of pain with some form of medication. Any migraine treatment plan involving medication should be overseen by a medical professional. This will help you avoid becoming overly dependent on the medication and risk undermining its effectiveness.

In addition to medication, there are several alternative methods for helping to take the edge off. Ginger and lavender oil, for example, are two remedies that have been found to work well in conjunction with modern medicine.

2. Apply a Cold Compress or Heating Pack

A cold compress or heating pack applied with pressure can help calm down a migraine in a pinch. While some will recommend switching off between the two, quickly raising and lowering body temperature can throw you off balance. It might even make the pain worse, adding insult to injury.

Different people may prefer one temperature extreme over the other. Cold packs are numbing, reducing pain by blocking off pain receptors and constricting blood vessels to reduce swelling and inflammation. Heating packs do the opposite, causing blood vessels to dilate and relax tension in the muscles that are contributing to headaches.

3. Turn Things Down a Notch

Your sensitivity to migraine triggers will almost certainly escalate in the middle of an episode. Until they are effectively countered, migraine triggers will continue to compound the suffering. Do whatever you can to get rid of sensory overload. 

Dim the lights. Turn off any music, and minimize any extraneous sounds in your environment. It’s much easier to get rid of a migraine in a calm, quiet atmosphere than in a noise-filled, hectic one. You can also reduce sensory overload by introducing calming triggers into your environment. Incense, the sound of nature, or anything else you find soothing can help.

4. Make Sure You Stay Hydrated

Drinking water has healing properties for just about any illness or infirmity. Proper hydration is key not only for the prevention of migraines, but for getting over them as well. Your body operates far better when it has the water it needs to recover.

In some cases, a caffeinated beverage can provide a quick fix to an ongoing migraine. The stimulants can bypass the headache just long enough for you to continue with your day. It’s important, though, that you be aware of the “let-down effect” once the caffeine has left your system. For some people, the resultant headache can be worse than the first one.

5. Take a Relaxing Break

Don’t overdo it when experiencing a migraine! Give yourself a moment to let it pass. You can make things worse by trying to pretend that you’re OK. A relaxing break is something every migraine sufferer needs, especially when a particularly strong episode has you in its grip.

Your break should not be spent scrolling through a screen. That won’t help. If you’re reluctant to slow down, remind yourself that a break doesn’t have to be a nap that puts you out of commission for the rest of the day. Consider trying some yoga or meditation as part of your break routine to relax your mind and body. Pay attention to the break elements that seem to work best for you, even if they buck conventional wisdom.

Deep-breathing exercises can also calm you down, especially if a wave of stress acted as the trigger for a migraine. Find a quiet place to focus on nothing but your breathing, even if it’s only for a few minutes. You might find your headache melting away sooner than expected.

6. Release Your Tension

While mindfully releasing tension may sound like a yoga mantra, it’s also sound advice for some smaller adjustments. If you have long hair in a tight bun or ponytail, let it hang loose until the worst of your migraine passes. Avoid chewing gum or eating denser foods as the tension produced by your jaw can aggravate a migraine or worsen an episode. Releasing even tiny amounts of tension in your body can help get rid of a migraine faster.

Getting a massage is also a good way to release tension. For quick relief, especially when a full-body massage is out of the question, try rolling your foot on a tennis ball. The back-and-forth motion will help the rest of your body relax. It deflects your mind from one part of your body to another and releases the tension in your muscles.

7. Adjust Your Posture

Poor posture can actually increase the frequency with which you experience migraines as a result of the added stress on your neck and head. Working on your posture will reduce the occurrence of migraines as well as help stop them once an episode begins.

Start by straightening your back. You probably spend a lot of time hunched over without even realizing it. Allow that adjustment to work up to your neck and head, aligning your spine from head to toe. If you struggle with posture at work, look for ergonomic equipment that enables you to maintain good form throughout the day.

Experiment With Different Techniques — and Take Notes

Keep this list handy for the next time a migraine tries to ruin your day. Not every one of these tips will work for you. Each body is unique and responds differently to various stimuli.

In the middle of an episode, you may not feel like taking notes on what is helping and what is making matters worse. Push through that resistance. After the pain has subsided, try to jot down even just a few pieces of data. 

Where were you when it hit? What were you doing? Did you try a combination of techniques? What finally seemed to do the trick? It may require a bit of effort, but as you move along in your journey to combat migraines, you will appreciate the time you took to make a record of the results.